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Election 2012: On Higher Education, Who Can You Trust?

Mitt Romney

By Dennis Van Roekel
October 25, 2012

Hearing Mitt Romney voice strong support for higher education and tout his achievements in Massachusetts reminds me of the popular ad campaign for smarter used car shopping. The spots humorously depict people buying used cars from various types of sellers, and issues a friendly reminder for consumers to make an educated buying decision from a trusted seller by just saying 'Show Me the CARFAX'.

Mr. Romney presents a viewpoint in TIME magazine for reforming American higher education that belies his record as governor of Massachusetts. Like a used car salesman trying to unload a lemon on an unsuspecting customer.

The Associated Press scrutinized Mr. Romney’s higher education overhaul in Massachusetts – a “sweeping plan to overhaul the state's public college system to cut waste, reduce costs and boost efficiency” – and concluded that his efforts fell short. His cautions about the skyrocketing cost of college are undercut by his track record: college fees soared 63 percent in Massachusetts because of his cuts to the state’s higher education budget.

Mr. Romney’s pitch to make it easier to attend college also stands in stark contrast to what he’s been saying on the stump and in debates. Like his response to a student who wanted to know what he would do to help make college affordable: “shop around.” And his explicit pledge in the second presidential debate to keep the Pell Grant program growing, when the budget written by his running mate Paul Ryan and praised by Mr. Romney would slash Pell Grants for more than 9 million students.

Many Americans today feel like they are losing their shot at college. Addressing this concern requires more than platitudes, and Mr. Romney has offered no plan. To the contrary, the more educators hear from Mr. Romney, the more we worry that his vision is reflected in his statement, “get as much education as you can afford.”